Plaintiffs, judge question ‘vague language’ in sonogram bill
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The fate of the new state law requiring doctors to perform sonograms on pregnant women seeking abortions now rests with a federal judge.
The Center for Reproductive Rights has filed a lawsuit challenging the law's constitutionality and what the plaintiffs call “vague language” within the law. Wednesday, a federal court in Austin heard arguments from both sides.
In the hearing, that lasted about one hour, Judge Sam Sparks spoke candidly about the law and expressed his own confusion about the bill’s wording.
"How many supplements is this statute going to take for me to understand it? And is the state going to send out these supplements to all these doctors?" Judge Sparks said.
Judge Sparks also admitted he was surprised when he heard the plaintiffs would not be arguing the sonogram bill places undue burden on the woman seeking the abortion to not go through with the procedure. Instead, the center’s case focuses on the rights of women and physicians.
“We’re seeking an injunction at this time in order to protect abortion providers from this law from going into effect,” Bebe Anderson with the Center for Reproductive Rights said. “It’s not gone into effect yet, but we wanted to be sure the court had time to consider the issues we raised and that’s why we moved when we did.”
However, those in favor of the sonogram law believe the it will empower women to make a more informed decision about their pregnancy.
“Texans can be proud that you’ve got a legislature and people across the state that have said it’s important for women to have accurate information and that’s the kind of strength that we need in law,” Jonathan Saenz with the Liberty Institute said.
The judge has several months to make his ruling before doctors are required to comply with the law Oct. 1. Providers who don't follow the law are at risk of both criminal charges and losing their license to practice.
Both sides are expecting Judge Sparks to issue a briefing schedule that will better outline a timeline for his decision.